2014 Le Mans LM P2 class champions cruelly miss out by less than 50 seconds on a repeat victory in world’s toughest sportscar race.
British sportscar team JOTA Sport has achieved another fantastic result in the world’s toughest motor race. Having won the LM P2 category in the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hour race, JOTA finished close runners-up in this year’s gruelling event. Simon Dolan, Oliver Turvey and Mitch Evans swept their Gibson-Nissan home from the back of the field after an early drama to the front in the annual French “classic” which finished yesterday (14 June).
Top ten overall
The trio clocked up 358-laps, 3,031-miles at an average speed of 126.20mph in the twice-around-the-clock marathon – finishing second – a mere 48.182secs behind the winning LM P2 car – and 10th overall. JOTA’s 2014 Le Mans victors Dolan and Turvey were joined on this occasion by Mitch Evans. The protégé of ex-Formula One race winner and Porsche “factory” driver Mark Webber was experiencing only his second career sportscar race – the Kiwi GP2 and GP3 race winner having won his first with JOTA last month (2 May) in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Turvey, meanwhile, was racing the Dunlop-shod JOTA sportscar for the first time since last year’s Le Mans victory.
For successful businessman and JOTA Group Partner Dolan, contesting Le Mans for the fifth time, and the small but dedicated JOTA Sport team, recording a third consecutive top-seven LM P2 placing on the team’s ninth Le Mans outing with essentially the same Gibson (neé Zytek) sportscar since 2012, is a truly awesome achievement.
We completed more laps than we did last year.
Turvey started the No38 Gibson-Nissan, christened #Mighty38, from fourth place on the LM P2 grid – row seven of the capacity 56-car grid around the high-speed 8.47-mile track. He completed the opening lap third but pitted to rectify a gearshift gremlin from eighth place after just over 30mins dropping to 18th in the 19-car LM P2 field and crucially over one lap behind.
But clean and consistently fast stints by all three drivers had the Gibson in to seventh place by midnight. With seven hours remaining, the British team was inside the top-three – their progress only briefly delayed with a puncture during the early hours – and then into second place on 100mins.
Since 2012, the JOTA Gibson has competed in 22 races (European Le Mans Series & FIA World Endurance Championship) and achieved 13 podiums – including five wins.
Dolan will be joined by JOTA’s European Le Mans Series regulars Filipe Albuquerque and Harry Tincknell for the team’s next race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria (12 July). Albuquerque and Tincknell were each on “factory” duty with Audi Sport and Nissan NISMO respectively at Le Mans.
Simon Dolan: “It was a little like last year but with not quite the same result but I have to be happy with the way everything panned out. We completed more laps than we did last year. Mitch, in only his second race with us having won at Spa [WEC], did a fantastic job while Oliver is just a machine. I felt I drove well in my stints and am really happy with my times. The winning ORECA was pretty quick and was bullet proof..”
Mitch Evans: “It has been a huge team effort. Everyone knuckled down and fought back really hard. We were all disappointed with what happened just after the start when a very small component let us down. It was really cool to be part of the recovery. We recovered so much time especially during the night. Simon did a great job. Olly was fantastic and I was happy to put quite a bit of time in as well. The strategy was spot on with Sam and the boys. It’s been a great experience.”
Oliver Turvey: “I started the race and unfortunately early on I had an issue with the gearbox and couldn’t upshift. I lost fifth to sixth shift initially then I lost everything. The team did a great job to change the sensor so quickly. We still lost a significant amount of time but in this race you never give up. It’s a case of maximum attack, pushing as hard as possible. During the night and early morning we were really quick and I set the outright fastest LM P2 lap time. Simon did some really great stints in the night. His pace was phenomenal. I think it’s the best he has ever driven here and Mitch, being a newcomer, he also did a great job. We all did everything we could and we showed that without that issue we could have easily won. To get second place and to get another podium at Le Mans is personally very special.”
Sam Hignett. Partner, JOTA Group: “This was JOTA’s ninth time at Le Mans and it would have been fantastic to claim a second consecutive win and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. It’s frustrating to be denied the win as the component that failed causing the upshift issue is so small. The repair cost us around six minutes and we ‘lost’ the race by less than one minute so that’s a little annoying. That said the entire team performed superbly. I think we consistently made the best pit-stops once again. All along we told the drivers we weren’t here to just finish the race – not to be one of the numbers. We were here to win it again. Simon, Mitch and Oliver were all amazing. I don’t think there were any spins or off track excursions in to the gravel. Now we concentrate on the ELMS race in Austria.”